On August 17th, 1944, the feast of St. Hyacinth, our two Mother Foundresses boarded the train in Catonsville, Maryland, headed for Montgomery. The next morning they stepped off into the sweltering heat of mid-August Alabama. A local priest escorted the two nuns out to the countryside North of the city where there was a small Resurrectionist mission, and, next door, an old frame farm house. Unbeknownst to our Mothers, this had been converted into a makeshift monastery—and a pretty good one, at that! With growing amazement and joy, they were shown around the house, to which a long dormitory had been added on with the monastic cells all prepared, and even a chapel with the choir for the nuns separated from the sanctuary by a grille.
In the early days there was much joy in the midst of “making do.” In the early 50’s, one of our Sisters from Chicago was a college graduate planning to enter our monastery. Back then, travel was not as common as it is today, so many girls entered “sight unseen.” A friend of Sister’s, also planning to enter the Order, was making a trip and stopped to visit the monastery. On his return to Chicago, Sister and her friends pumped him for information: What was it like? Did the nuns have such-and-so amenities? What about running water? “Oh, well, it was very nice,” replied the young man vaguely. In fact, on the day of his visit, there was NOT any water, as the pump was in one of its frequent “out of order” spells. “Um, they have PIPES!” he proclaimed diplomatically.
How many other anecdotes we could relate of the past 70 years since our brave Foundresses arrived from the monastery in Catonsville, Maryland, to begin this adventure in the deep South. The “building days” when the Sisters pitched in and helped with many aspects of building our current monastery just up the hill from the original house; winning over the admiration and respect of various Baptist workmen and neighbors; and the adventures of our daily community life while the praise of God and His Blessed Mother ascend hour-by-hour to Heaven. As we approach the Year of Consecrated Life this fall and the 800th Anniversary of the Foundation of the Dominican Order in 2016, we look forward in hope to another 70 years of Dominican nuns serving God here at the Dominican Monastery of St. Jude in Marbury, Alabama.